Susan Abulhawa

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Susan Abulhawa
Abulhawa in 2010
Abulhawa in 2010
Born (1970-06-03) June 3, 1970 (age 53)
OccupationAuthor, activist
NationalityPalestinian American
Notable worksMornings in Jenin

Susan Abulhawa (Arabic: سوزان أبو الهوى, born June 3, 1970) is a Palestinian writer and human rights activist and animal rights advocate.[1] She is the author of several books, and the founder of a non-governmental organization, Playgrounds for Palestine.[2] She lives in Pennsylvania.[3] Her first novel, Mornings in Jenin, was translated into 32 languages and sold more than a million copies. The sales and reach of her debut novel made Abulhawa the most widely read Palestinian author of all time.[4] Her second novel, The Blue Between Sky And Water, was sold in 19 languages before its release, and was published in English in 2015. Against the Loveless World, her third novel, was released in August 2020, also to critical acclaim.[5][6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Abulhawa's parents, born in At-Tur in East Jerusalem, were refugees of the 1967 war. Her father, according to one account,[3] "was expelled at gunpoint; her mother, who was studying in Germany at the time, was unable to return and the couple reunited in Jordan before moving to Kuwait, where Abulhawa was born in 1970."

Her parents split shortly after her birth and Abulhawa's childhood was turbulent, moving between Kuwait, the United States, Jordan, and Palestine. She lived in the United States with an uncle until she was 5, then spent several years moving between relatives in Jordan and Kuwait. She lived in Dar el Tifl, a Jerusalem orphanage, from the age of 10 to 13.[3]

At 13, Abulhawa came to the US, where she lived with her father briefly before entering the foster care system in the US.[citation needed]

Prior to writing her first book, Abulhawa had a career in biomedical science, where she worked as a researcher for a pharmaceutical company.[citation needed]

In addition to three novels, in 2013 Abulhawa published a collection of poetry entitled My Voice Sought the Wind.[8]

Abulhawa is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine,[9] an NGO that advocates for Palestinian children by building playgrounds in Palestine and UN refugee camps in Lebanon. The first playground was erected in early 2002.[10]


She is involved in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and as a speaker for Al Awda, the Right to Return coalition.[3]

Abulhawa is signatory to the boycott campaign against Israel, including the cultural boycott. She gave the keynote address at one of the first campus BDS conferences at the University of Pennsylvania.[11] Abulhawa claimed the BDS movement, according to a 2012 profile, "as one of the most effective ways to promote Palestinian rights and achieve justice against Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing".[12]

She has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.[13] [14]In 2013, Abulhawa declined an invitation from Al Jazeera to participate in a discussion about the Israel-Palestine issue with several Israelis, including some who were highly critical of Israeli policy.[15]

2023 Adelaide Writers' Week[edit]

In February 2023, invited to speak at the Adelaide Writers' Week festival in Australia, Abulhawa caused controversy due to her Twitter comments describing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a "Nazi-promoting Zionist" and accusing him of dragging "the whole world into the inferno of WWIII", leading to three invited Ukrainian authors withdrawing from the event.[16]


Abulhawa's novel Mornings in Jenin, which was published in 2010 by Bloomsbury, has been translated into Arabic by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.[3] It has also been translated into at least two dozen other languages and has become an international bestseller.[17]

The French author and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy called Mornings in Jenin "a concentration of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish clichés masquerading as fiction".[18] Abulhawa responded by dismissing Levy as a "French pop star of philosophy and intellectual elitism" and accusing him of "name-calling": "He simply slaps on the word 'anti-Semitism' to discredit any negative portrayal of Israel.... Mr. Levy accuses us of 'demonizing Israel', when in fact, all we do is pull back the curtain, however slightly, to show a dark truth he wishes to keep hidden. I suspect that Mr Levy feels, as most Jewish supporters of Israel do, that he is more entitled to my grandfather's farms than I am. After all, that is really the foundation of Israel, isn't it?"[19]

Filmworks Dubai bought the film rights to Mornings in Jenin, planning to begin production in late 2013. Anna Soler-Pont, head of the Pontas agency, which sold the film rights to the novel, said: "This is going to be a special project. There aren't any epic films on Palestine yet."[20] However, the producer died shortly after and the rights reverted to her.[citation needed]


  • Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010, ISBN 978-1608190461).
  • The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury, 2015, ISBN 978-1632862228).
  • Against the Loveless World (Bloomsbury, 2020, ISBN 978-1526618801).


  • Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change[21] (LeftWorld Books, 2017)
  • This Is Not A Border: Reportage & Reflections from the Palestine Festival of Literature (2017)[22]
  • Shattered Illusions, anthology (Amal Press, 2002) [23]
  • Searching Jenin, anthology (Cune Press, 2003).[23]
  • Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home anthology (2012)[24]
  • My Voice Sought The Wind, poetry collection (Just World Books, November 2013)[25]



  1. ^ Rhodes, Giulia (June 6, 2015). "Building playgrounds in Palestine: 'This is their special place and refuge'". The Guardian.
  2. ^ "Susan Abulhawa". Al Jazeera.
  3. ^ a b c d e Yaqoob, Tahira (April 26, 2012). "Arab-American novelist fights for justice in Palestine". The National. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  4. ^ "Susan Abulhawa (June 1970–present)",
  5. ^ Khadivi, Laleh (August 26, 2020). "A Beautiful, Urgent Novel of the Palestinian Struggle". The New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  6. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  7. ^ "Review: Mornings in Jenin". Kirkus Reviews.
  8. ^ "Susan Abulhawa's My Voice Sought The Wind – Poetry Review". Palestine Chronicle. October 25, 2013.
  9. ^ "Playgrounds for Palestine".
  10. ^ Adams, John (March 2003), "Playgrounds for Palestine Brings Playground for Peace" (PDF), Today's Playground, retrieved October 13, 2009
  11. ^ Robbins, Annie (February 15, 2012). "Out of the Ballpark: Susan Abulhawa's speech to the PennBDS conference". Mondoweiss.
  12. ^ Bland, Sally (March 27, 2012). "Susan Abulhawa: Writing for Palestine". The Jordan Times.
  13. ^ Abulhawa, Susan (2009). "Palestinians Will Never Forget". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. American Educational Trust. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  14. ^ "Israel's apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity". Amnesty International. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  15. ^ Weiss, Philip (May 19, 2013). "Abulhawa declines to balance out several Israelis in Al Jazeera forum on Nakba". Mondoweiss.
  16. ^ "Ukrainian authors withdraw from Adelaide Writers' Week amid line-up controversy". ABC News. February 22, 2023. Retrieved February 22, 2023.
  17. ^ Badih, Samia (May 4, 2012). "Palestine on Her Mind". Gulf News.
  18. ^ Lévy, Bernard-Henri (December 3, 2010). "The Antisemitism to Come". Huffington Post.
  19. ^ Abulhawa, Susan (December 22, 2010). "The Antisemitism to Come? Hardly". Huffington Post.
  20. ^ Evans, Chris (November 17, 2011). "Filmworks Dubai Takes Rights to Best-Selling Novel Mornings in Jenin". Screen Daily.
  21. ^ "Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt", Amazon
  22. ^ "This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature". Bloomsbury.
  23. ^ a b "Bloomsbury Biography".
  24. ^ (Researcher), Penny Johnson; Shehadeh, Raja (2012). Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home. Women Unlimited. ISBN 978-8188965731.
  25. ^ "My Voice Sought the Wind".
  26. ^ "Susan Abulhawa EAA '03". Leeway Foundation.
  27. ^ "Susan Abulhawa in conversation with Gillian Slovo, Part of Shubbak Festival at the British Library". The British Library. July 16, 2017.
  28. ^ "MEMO Book Awards 2013 honours Rashid Khalidi, Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson". Palestine Book Awards. November 14, 2013.
  29. ^ "All 4 Palestine | Model Role Details".
  30. ^ "2021 Arab American Book Award Winners". Arab American National Museum.
  31. ^ "Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa's 'Against the Loveless World' nominated for US literary award". Arab News. March 3, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2021.

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